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Iraq's cabinet expected to meet on US pact as deadline looms

Iraq navy captures escaped detainee at sea
A detainee attempted on Monday to escape from Camp Bucca, a sprawling US detention facility in southern Iraq, but was quickly recaptured by a unit of Iraq's navy, Iraqi and US officials said. "The Iraqi navy arrested at sea terrorist Najem Abdullah Abbas who escaped (Monday) morning from Camp Bucca," spokesman for Iraq's defence ministry, General Mohammad al-Askari, told AFP. "This terrorist is accused of killing 100 Iraqis. He was arrested a few hours after he escaped," Askari said. A US military spokesman Major Neal Fisher confirmed the re-arrest, which he said took place in the Um Qasr port area of the southern city of Basra, where Camp Bucca is sited. "A detainee did attempt to escape from Camp Bucca ... however, as a result of the very professional and diligent work of an Iraqi Marine Squad (he) was recaptured and returned immediately," Fisher said. "This attempted escape is currently under review to ensure that the methods used by this detainee are no longer viable," he added. According to the Iraqi government, there were in mid-August 47,445 detainees in the country, of whom 23,229 were incarcerated in US facilities, the vast majority of them in Camp Bucca.
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 10, 2008
Iraq's cabinet is expected to meet in Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss a military accord that will govern the presence of American troops in Iraq beyond 2008, a minister said on Monday.

Baghdad and Washington are racing to frame the terms of the contentious deal ahead of the expiry of the UN mandate on December 31.

Despite the looming deadline there was still uncertainty that the draft proposal would actually be discussed as ministers had yet to receive a copy of the latest text presented by the US side, a minister said.

"We are going to meet tomorrow, and maybe we're going to discuss it," Environment Minister Nermeen Othman told AFP.

The latest draft stipulates that American forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the country by 2011.

The signing of the pact has been repeatedly delayed despite several months of negotiations. Baghdad last month proposed more changes to the draft agreement.

Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie said last week that the US administration has agreed to remove a clause which could have allowed its troops to remain in Iraq after the end of 2011.

"They have accepted this change and the foreign military presence will end at the end of 2011," Rubaie told state television.

Rubaie also said Iraq had proposed "110 changes" to American negotiators of the proposed status of forces agreement (SOFA) and "they came today with their responses."

US embassy spokeswoman Susan Ziadeh stressed that the United States considered the current draft as a final text.

"We responded to the proposed amendments and got back to them with a final text," she told AFP. "Through this step we've concluded the process on the US side. Now the Iraqis are working it through their own process."

In a press conference after meeting with Arab League chief Amr Mussa, National Security Minister Sharwan al-Waeli said Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had assured Arab countries in a letter that the arrangement had met two main Iraqi demands.

"The agreement contained two main guarantees: that there will be no transgressions against neighbouring, Arab or friendly states," a statement by the Arab League quoted him as saying.

Waeli said the agreement "forbids any movement or aggression or clash with any neighbouring state" and it "will not take away from Iraq's sovereignty and the Iraqi people's rights."

According to the Baghdad edition of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, the Americans have agreed to three of the five changes proposed by Iraq.

In addition to Washington dropping the clause that authorises Baghdad and Washington to seek an extension for retaining troops, the US had also agreed to allow Iraqis to inspect the incoming and outgoing American postal mail.

Some changes in the language of the texts had also been made but American negotiators were, however, not keen to further loosen the immunity offered to the US soldiers.

Washington has already agreed to allow Iraq to prosecute American troops and civilians if they commit any serious crime outside the base when off-duty. But Iraqis want to prosecute them for crimes conducted on their bases.

A failure to agree on the current draft would raise a new set of thorny problems for both Washington and Baghdad, starting with the need to request a new mandate from the UN Security Council.

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US Lieutenant Colonel Mark Grabski has been busy on the computer over the past few weeks -- not to follow the history-making presidential election but to check on his dwindling savings.

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